The Unexpected


There’s a new show at the Museum of Natural History running through December 2 called, “Spiders Alive!” Where the innovative, sadistic curators have combined real, live (the kind that will make you real dead), polycarbonate-reinforced glass-encased spiders — with sculptural interpretations. Like one of a male, golden-orb spider, 70 times life size, orbing from the rafters.

My sight unseen review? Vomitus.

Almost as bad as the public behavior of some parents/offspring I’ve recently witnessed at (fill in the name of any local restaurant here).

I understand the pressure of having to squeeze the opposite of not seeing your kids for an entire week while you work in a large, hot city into two days — but treating those same kids to as much ice cream as there is for sale — then sending them on a whirligig of hyped up prodding, poking (we are still in the restaurant), and roughhousing…well there’s bound to be just a touch of unpleasant behavior. From both parties. And a sound emitted from one small child sharp enough to cut through the typical Saturday night din din din. A noise so spectacularly piercing, it left me looking skyward for a low flying SR-71 Blackbird.

I call this Truncheon Parenting. And we are on the spiked, iron orb side of it all. Yet still not nearly as stomach churning as my own, personal, excessively, hyper-interactive spider…spectacle.

So, I’m reaching down into a kitchen cabinet for to retrieve a 5 lb. bag of Feline Pine™ cat litter — when an already unpleasant weekly chore turned positively gut wrenching.

In a blind, nauseating second, I glance down — just above the waistband of my shorts — only to see an inch-long, elongated, light green arachnid. Inanimate, yet clearly alive. No Plexiglas. Far below any rafters. On my skin. Waiting…

Just as it bares it’s fangs and sinks them deep into my fully exposed epidermis.

The pain eclipsed the horror by far. Stunned, I flicked my attacker off, sprayed the already inflamed area with Benadryl Extra Strength™, and collapsed on the couch with an icepack and my phone. Did I fail to mention that I am severely arachnophobic?

The first two calls were made to medical professionals. The third number I speed dialed was a pest control professional friend of mine. Who, as expected, was the first to return my call — as I sat trying desperately not to replay the sick, twisted scenario that was my immediate, short-term memory. When he told me that based on his 20-plus-year’s worth of professional pest control service — that I had nothing to worry about — my mind was immediately put at ease.

Though the other two phone calls remain unreturned. Luckily, before the ice-pack burn subsided — my superhuman gift of denial kicked in — and I continued my weekend with an unmolested sense of wellbeing and safety. As if it never happened.

This column isn’t about spiders. Or the cloaked, day derailing waking nightmares involved in keeping a litter box clean. It’s about those tiny, surprising bits that fall into one’s lap — leaving an abrupt yet lasting impression.

Later that evening I received a phone call from my wonderfully dear Aunt Sunny and I learned that she’s taken to lying on the floor for long periods of time to relieve her crippling Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Sunny is a woman who — though close to 90 — has never let age weaken her epoxy-strong demeanor. Sunny — is the perfect name for someone with her high wattage personality and illuminating nature. Her actual name is Viola — again, not a bad moniker for someone whose life has been lived like the beautifully fluid notes of said instrument.

Like a sun-dappled butterfly with a silk black belt — who would never weave getting a spider bite into a column. When it comes to life’s unexpected…bites — she has her own, unique way of dealing with them.

Wait — did I mention I woke up one morning only to have my front door entirely sealed over with a spider’s web? The culprit — waiting front and center like an important broach — as if to say, “I made this overnight!” I literally couldn’t open the door.

Divorced from a truly horrific, abusive marriage, and on her own with three small boys to raise in the early 1960’s, Sunny took to practicing Yoga. Routinely excusing herself from dinner parties to stand on her head — in plain sight of all the other guests. Brilliant.

Sunny beat breast cancer in her 70’s. She is in her Florida Condo’s pool at 8:00 A.M. every morning. She plays Canasta three times a week. And rarely loses. And in her spare time, Sunny drives sick friends to doctor appointments.

The unexpected hasn’t a chance in the ring with Sunny. Which is why I wasn’t so shocked by her reaction to my spider bite story. She was genuinely horrified — that I didn’t find my attacker and kill it first thing. “It’s still alive in your house!!?”

Instead, I got comfy on the couch, soothed my wound, and called for help. Something Sunny had a hard time understanding.


PETER HAMILTON TRAVIS is happy to report he is now endowed with many meaningful Superpowers. The least of which is a renewed faith in the slimming powers of wire-reinforced Lycra bodysuits.